The sculptures known as Gay Liberation are profound in their simplicity. The monument shows two same-sex couples enjoying a day in a park. Although it may not seem like a very dramatic scene, it’s this act of normality that makes the monument so revolutionary.
Gay Liberation is one part of the Stonewall National Monument commemorating the rebellion that led to the modern gay rights movement. It was commissioned by the Mildred Andrews Fund in 1979 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
The American pop artist George Segal sculpted bronze statues and then covered them with white lacquer, which was a trademark of his work. He chose to depict the couples in relaxed poses to convey affection and intimacy as opposed to the hyper-sexualization then common in media depictions of gay people. For members of the LGBT community, such a show of openness and comfort was denied to them for so long.
The artwork faced controversy from the very beginning. The sculpture was intended to be on public land in New York City, but gay rights opponents blocked its installation. It was the city of Madison, Wisconsin, that first welcomed the sculptures. It wasn’t until 1992 that Gay Liberation finally went back home to New York, where it currently resides in Christopher Park in the West Village.